Ryan was betting that three things would happen. First, he was betting that Republicans would beat President Obama. Second, he was betting that Republicans would win such overwhelming Congressional majorities that they would be able to push through measures Democrats hate. Third, he was betting that a group of Republican politicians would unilaterally slash one of the country’s most popular programs and that they would be able to sustain these cuts through the ensuing elections, in the face of ferocious and highly popular Democratic opposition .... Ryan’s fantasy happens to be the No. 1 political fantasy in America today, which has inebriated both parties. It is the fantasy that the other party will not exist. It is the fantasy that you are about to win a 1932-style victory that will render your opponents powerless.
The piece goes on to fashion a divide between "campaign consciousness" — the strident policy argument vibe one cultivates before an election — and "governing consciousness" — the mindset between election seasons that leads office holders to "navigate our divides to come up with something suboptimal but productive." Brooks tags Ryan as good on the former but lousy on the latter.
Although Brooks confines his accusation to Ryan, influential figures in both parties exhibit this tendency, feeding the paralyzing gridlock that prevents anything from getting done in Congress even when it's not campaign season. Brooks is right that way too much of the campaign discourse we endure rests on an absurdist assumption that winning the electoral college will magically activate a governing mandate. As if.
But even if there are Democrats mirroring Ryan's behavior, it can also be said that Barack Obama has (suffers from?) the opposite profile — too much governing consciousness (an inclination to capitulate for marginal gain) and too little campaign consciousness. As Thomas Frank argues in an essay getting a lot of attention, overeager conciliation undermines your negotiating leverage, inviting the very rigidity on the other side that ends up undermining your conciliatory move.
A version of this post also appears at BruceBarry.net.
There are fascinating moral questions here about the nature of accountability and responsibility for one's actions and for the actions of others. When does nominal responsibility become ethical responsibility? Are we morally accountability for things that we put in motion but then step away from? These moral questions create a striking but so far untapped opportunity for the Obama campaign.
It's hardly surprising that a campaign trying desperately to shift from a defensive posture on matters of private equity and tax returns would seize on anything to change the subject, and perhaps that explains how this particular tidbit of second-rate campaign discourse distortion has kept its legs for a full week — an eternity in the news cycle game. (There's nothing like yet another gun rampage mass shooting to really change the subject.)
But while Romney may have twisted Obama's remarks last Friday into something never said or intended, the Mittster does edge dangerously close to having a point when he says of Obama, as he did yesterday, "It wasn't a gaffe. It was instead his ideology." The conceptual relationship between capitalism and infrastructure is actually a crucial and fascinating subject, one that does define significant differences between the candidates and their parties — or one that might, if there could be a serious conversation about it instead of just harping on out-of-context utterances.
At the end of a particularly tough week for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Republican governors, gathered at the National Governors Association summer in Virginia this weekend, encouraged him to come back swinging. (Instead of, perhaps, asking the Obama campaign for an apology.)
Among them was our own Gov. Bill Haslam, who offered some encouragement for the candidate, from one wealthy businessman to another.
From Politico, after the jump:
Actually, we haven't heard any such reports — except for this one — and given how the incumbent President Barack Obama has faired in several Southern primaries, we're not expecting any.
After losing 10 West Virginia counties and at least one convention delegate to the gloriously mulleted and incarcerated felon Keith Judd, the sitting president faced two more close contests last night. In Arkansas, he edged out Tennessee attorney John Wolfe, who scored 41 percent of the vote. In Kentucky, he lost over half of the state's counties and 42 percent of the vote to the political juggernaut known only as "Uncommitted."
These margins would be unremarkable in a primary between actual politicians. But when the opponents are a prisoner, an unknown attorney from a neighboring state and "anyone but you," they leave something to be desired. Still, it would be a mistake to take an apparent disconnect between the president and former members of the confederacy — excluding West Virginia, which was actually formed when it seceded from confederate Virginia — as a harbinger of the election's outcome in November. The Obama campaign has essentially forfeited these states, choosing instead to put time and money into states where they actually have a chance.
The answer, evidently, is "No." But hey, we made you look!
If you picked up the fish-wrapper or spent any time on the Internet Sunday, you heard the shocking news. In bold, above-the-fold letters, The Tennessean announced the results of a new Vanderbilt poll declaring that the outcome of Tennessee's vote in the forthcoming presidential election is far less than foregone.
"President Barack Obama has pulled into a virtual tie with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in traditionally conservative Tennessee," wrote Michael Cass, to lead the story.
To many readers and political observers who are not the Democratic Party, that sounded dubious. And as it turns out, it is.
That's because, while that is what the poll says, it's not what the poll says. Curiously enough, Cass reports precisely that, just a few grafs down. The poll of 1,002 Tennesseans 18 and older found that 42 percent of respondents would vote for Romney, while 41 percent would vote for Obama if the election were held right now.
However, among registered voters — that is, people who actually could vote if the election were held right now — Romney leads Obama 47-40.
"It's not that close a race," Vanderbilt political science professor John Geer told Cass, who noted that Geer actually predicts an easy Tennessee victory for Romney in November, once currently undecided conservatives get behind the GOP candidate.
Geer told Pith all that too and said Romney will likely win the state with around 56 percent of the vote. He also called the blaring pronouncement from 1100 Broadway "misleading."
"I tried to get the Tennessean not to lead with the overall numbers because they were misleading," he said. "The poll tells you pretty clearly that Romney's gonna win. You can take this one slice — and the Democrats certainly like the slice and I don't blame them for liking it — but come November, unless there is some landslide of epic proportions unfolding, Romney is going to carry Tennessee comfortably."
On Friday morning he dispensed his long-awaited two cents on the Trayvon Martin case, informing readers of his blog that he's "pretty sure" Tennessee does have the "Stand Your Ground" law, which he sponsored.
By lunch, the Newt Gingrich campaign had made it known to the Republican State Executive Committee and the media that they didn't want Campfield sitting in their section at the Republican National Convention. Campfield, of course, had been the co-chairman of Gingrich's campaign here, but switched allegiances and endorsed Rick Santorum just before Tennessee's Super Tuesday primary.
The Knoxville firebrand must have then spent all day Saturday devising this elaborate April Fools' Day stunt.
Early this morning, Campfield posted a response to the Newt's public Dear Stacey letter. Sure, he had willingly stepped off the Gingrich bus — in his telling, this actually helps Newt in the end — but it's the manner in which the campaign ran him over with it that has him peeved. An excerpt:
This is Rick Santorum, candidate for president of the United States of America. In this video, he's speaking in Janesville, Wisc., on March 27.
I've watched this clip about 20 times, and I can't come up with a single feasible thing that Rick Santorum might have been trying to say at roughly the 34:25 mark, other than the word he got 50 percent through saying before realizing he was one syllable away from pulling the cord on his political suicide vest. One poll suggests he was about to utter the words "Nickelback fan," which is an insult for sure!
Seriously, though: This man won the Tennessee Republican primary.
Mitt Romney has now been moved to life support — pulse has been detected — having notched one of the ugliest wins in American primary politics. In Michigan, the state where he grew up and where his father served as governor, he only narrowly defeated an insignificant one-term U.S. senator whose extraordinarily right-wing and often curious positions raised questions from party insiders about the very nature of the Republican Party.
A win, though, is a win, even against a pitifully weak opponent, and with what appears to be a faint breeze now blowing in Romney's sails, he might finally find what looks like momentum. He needs it.
Everywhere one looks, storm clouds gather. Looming large is the increasing perception that the Grand Old Party, which half a century ago was personified by the steady and reliable management of Dwight D. Eisenhower in cahoots with East Coast financial markets and the Boy Scouts in Norman Rockwell paintings, is now a breeding ground for lunatics, crackpots, conspiracy theorists, and my crazy great uncle Ralph, currently down in the basement, over by the shovels, plotting his own candidacy.
Three of the four remaining candidates — Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — espouse a variety of hotly disputed, if not outright extreme, positions. These include a return to the gold standard, not going to college because of its elitism and liberalism, stronger relations between the White House and the pope, un-separating the separation between church and state, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, bombing Iran, eliminating health insurance, and more. It grows crazier, Alice in Wonderland-like, unrecognizable.
Gov. Bill Haslam has been named Tennessee state campaign chairman for the walking OCD diagnosis known as Mitt Romney following an official endorsement by the Haslam last month. The news shouldn't be all that shocking since Haslam's father and brother also work for Romney's campaign, which can be considered either a partnership predicated on moderate Republican ideals, a return on investment regarding Romney's support of the governor during the 2010 gubernatorial election, birds of platinum-gilded feathers flocking together, or some combination of the three.
If a recent American Research Group poll is any indication, however, Romney will need the support of the Pilot-Flying J Dynasty: In a telephone interview conducted Feb. 8-9, 600 likely Tennessee GOP primary voters favored Rick Santorum by a full 7 points over the former Massachusetts governor, 34-27, because we love freedom.
News that Romney's Super PAC has begun buying air time in eastern and middle Tennessee has prompted human paraquat Newt Gingrich (who netted 16 percent in the ARG poll) to announce a trip to our humble state next week, where donors with a couple grand to burn can score a photo with America's true conservative sweetheart.
From Knox News:
Gingrich has scheduled a Feb. 27 fundraising event at a Franklin, Tenn., residence. Basic tickets are $1,000 each with $2,500 needed to attend a "VIP reception with photo opportunity," according to a printed invitation.
State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, who is co-chairman of Gingrich's campaign in Tennessee, said there may be other events in Tennessee.
Hopefully this means that the gods will deign to bestow us with a Romney performance prior to the March 6 primary. Hell, I'd fire my best maid just to hear him rattle a few Johnny Cash tunes...
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